CCHD Responds to Its Critics and Chicago Responds to Its Own

Deal W. Hudson
November 18, 2009

With its annual collection coming up this Sunday, the Catholic Campaign for Human Development is fighting back against the organized effort encouraging Catholics to ignore the collection.

CCHD’s woes began last year when its grants to ACORN were terminated following the allegations of voter fraud and embezzlement brought against them during the 2008 election.

Since then, a growing number of other CCHD grantees have been found to advocate either abortion or same-sex marriage – or both. Rob Gaspar of Bellarmine Veritas MinistryStephanie Block of the Catholic Media Coalition, American Life League, and Human Life International have published damaging evidence about many grantees and are leading an effort to boycott the collection.

The organization has not been unresponsive to the criticism. Bishop Roger Morin, chairman of the USCCB Subcommittee on the CCHD, published a memo to all the bishops on October 2 about Bellarmine Veritas Ministry’s investigation. CCHD’s internal investigation resulted in the defunding of two organizations (one had already been defunded), while two others were exonerated.

Bishop Morin also offered his fellow bishops the assurance “that the CCHD Subcommittee and staff take seriously any allegation that groups we fund are not in compliance with Catholic teaching or are participating in a partisan political activity.”

Last November, Bishop Morin published a report formally announcing the end to all ACORN funding, “because of serious concerns about financial accountability, organizational performance, and political partisanship.” In addition, Bishop Morin promised an ongoing investigation by “specialists in forensic accounting to help determine if any CCHD money was taken or misused.”

A sign of the growing discontent with CCHD is the furor that arose in response to a letter signed by the group’s director in the Archdiocese of Chicago, published on October 13 by Matt Abbott at RenewAmerica.com. The letter, signed Rey Flores, accused “certain groups” of having “motivations and objectives [that] are rooted in partisan politics, rather than faithfulness to Catholic teaching and concern for the poor.”

The comparison between ACORN’s involvement in voter fraud, currently being investigated in 13 states, and the pro-life organizations criticizing CCHD seemed so preposterous, I emailed Flores and asked him: Given that a pro-life, pro-family position taken by Catholic activists appears to conform more to the GOP platform than that of the Democrats, is it fair to assume their motivation is partisan – that is, to benefit the Republican Party?

Within a few hours, I received a call from Nicholas Lund-Molfese, director of the Office of Peace and Justice, who supervises Flores. Lund-Molfese, a member of the Fellowship of Catholic Scholars, was apologetic and took full responsibility:

“This letter,” he told me, “was never intended as a public statement – it was an email sent to a small group of local Catholics who had been faithful supporters of CCHD.”

Lund-Molfese admits the letter was sent because he and his staff were worried about the impact of the boycott on the collection and “the impact a significant drop would have on the reforms we are trying to make here at CCHD.” When the letter became public, he immediately called American Life League to apologize for what looked like criticism of their organization. He reiterated, “I regret that sincere and longstanding pro-life organizations, known to all, think our words were aimed at them. We know they are not motivated by partisanship but by love for the truth, even though we may have differences.”

In fact, the letter was written in response to many contentious e-mails sent to Francis Cardinal George and the CCHD, as well as personal comments that Lund-Molfese characterized as both hateful and untrue. “We’ve been accused of funding everything from prostitution to homosexual acts.”

Some of the e-mails mentioned the cardinal’s position on immigration; many more complained about the fact that a group of parishes in the Archdiocese of Chicago hired Barack Obama to do community organizing for them some 20 years ago. Lund-Molfese sees no reason to defend programs that were funded before either he or Cardinal George started their work in Chicago.

When I asked Lund-Molfese why the letter was so sharply worded, he replied, “I think it is a fair response to some people in the Archdiocese of Chicago who has contacted Cardinal George or our office, but not appropriate to any of the CCHD critics.” However, Lund-Molfese admits it was a mistake to send it, regardless of his good intentions.

When I asked him to talk more about the reforms underway at CCHD in Chicago, he explained that he had all the staff read Caritas in Veritate and discuss Pope Benedict XVI’s concept of human development and how it relates to “what CCHD does and doesn’t do, knowing that it first and foremost is pro-life.”

Lund-Molfese hopes to fund pro-life advocacy in Chicago and has solicited organizations to apply for grants. One crisis pregnancy center, however, replied they did not want to apply for a CCHD grant, because some board members considered it “tainted money.”

That a pro-life organization would actually turn down grant money is indicative of the problem faced not only by Lund-Molfese but by CCHD throughout the country and at the USCCB. Bishop Morin appears to be taking serious steps toward reforming the organization at the national level, but it may be a long time before the trust of many Catholics is restored.

By Deal Hudson

Deal W. Hudson was born November 20, 1949 in Denver, CO, to Emmie and Jack Hudson, both native Texans. Dr. Hudson had an older sister Ruth, and eventually, a younger sister, Elizabeth. Emmie Hudson, Ruth Hudson and Elizabeth Hudson now live in Houston, TX; Jack Hudson passed away some years ago. The late Jack Hudson was a captain for Braniff Airlines in Denver at the time of Dr. Hudson’s birth. Later the family moved to Kansas City when his father joined the Federal Aviation Agency. From Kansas City, the Hudson family moved to Minneapolis, then to Massapequa, NY, and finally to Alexandria, VA, where they first occupied a home overlooking the Potomac River adjacent to the Mount Vernon estate. After a year, the family moved to a home on Tarpon Lane a few houses up the street from the Yacht Haven boat docks. Dr. Hudson attended Mt. Vernon Elementary School from grades 4 to 6 and has a special gratitude for the teaching of Mr. Hoppe who first told him was a ‘smart lad.’ Having moved with his family to Fort Worth, TX in 1960, Dr. Hudson attended William Monnig Junior High and Arlington Heights HS. In high school, Dr. Hudson was captain of the golf team, editor of the literary magazine (Guerdon), and performed the role of Peter in the ‘The Diary of Anne Frank’ during his senior year. Dr. Hudson graduated cum laude with a major in philosophy from the University of Texas-Austin in 1971 where his undergraduate advisor was Prof. John Silber. His teachers at the University of Texas included Prof. Louis Mackey and Prof. Larry Caroline. Dr. Hudson minored in both classics and English literature. Dr. Hudson lived in Atlanta from 1974-1989, where he attended Emory University, receiving a Phd from the Graduate Institute for the LIberal Arts. He also taught philosophy at Mercer University in Atlanta from 1980-89. In 1989 Dr. Hudson and his family left Atlanta when he was hired to teach philosophy at Fordham University in the Bronx. Dr. Hudson taught at Fordham, and also part-time at New York University, from 1989 to 1994. Dr. Hudson first came to Atlanta in after graduation from Princeton Theological Seminary (PTS) with an M.Div. While at PTS, Dr. Hudson managed the Baptist Student Union at Princeton University and became its first director. Dr. Hudson also was licensed at a minister in the Southern Baptist Convention at Madison Baptist Church in Madison, NJ. Dr. Hudson’s primary area of study at PTS was the history of Christian doctrine which he pursued with Dr. Karlfried Froelich. In 1984 Dr. Hudson was received in the Catholic Church by Msgr. Richard Lopez, with the special permission of Archbishop Thomas A. Donnellan, at the chapel of Our Lady of Perpetual Help Cancer Home in Atlanta. Dr. Hudson has been married twenty-five years to Theresa Carver Hudson and they have two children, Hannah Clare, 23, and Cyprian Joseph (Chip), 15, adopted from Romania when he was three years old. The Hudson family has lived in Fairfax, VA for more than fifteen years, after having lived five years in Bronxville, NY and a year in Atlanta, GA, where Theresa and Deal were married.

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